Catch Me If You Can: Pokémon Meets Real Estate

By Jennifer E. Schulz

Surely by now, everyone has heard about the Pokémon Go craze. The mobile game launched in the US in early July and has exploded in popularity, becoming one of the fastest growing apps in history. An integral part of the game is its tie to the player’s GPS in their phone, which encourages them to physically explore their neighborhood (and discover new ones), all in an effort to catch ‘em all! What does this have to do with real estate? Well, some businesses are utilizing the game’s popularity to boost their customer base and introduce new guests to their restaurants and stores by capitalizing on players’ willingness to search far and wide for new Pokémon.

As a player walks around in the real world, virtual Pokémon will pop up on their phone for the player to capture. Within this virtual Pokémon world, there are PokéStops and Pokémon gyms where Pokémon (and therefore people trying to catch them) tend to congregate, providing a unique opportunity for real-world businesses around these locations to entice new people – who may have had no other reason to be in the area – to visit them. If the mere presence of a PokéStop nearby is not enough, businesses can also buy lures, which attract Pokémon for 30 minutes, practically guaranteeing an increase in foot traffic. This could be especially useful to drum up business during hours when a store or restaurant is otherwise not busy. The promise of finding Pokémon is certainly strong enough to bring players to new areas, as evidenced by companies jumping on the Pokémon Go bandwagon. Yelp, for example, has added a filter to show businesses close to a PokéStop, and many retailers are putting up signs outside of their stores advertising that they are a PokéStop. These kinds of tie-ins may lead to new customers that would have otherwise been uninterested in the store. On the other hand, however, some businesses haven’t enjoyed the influx of people focused on their phones and have resorted to only allowing paying customers to catch Pokémon inside their stores. Another downside property owners should keep in mind is the possibility that the uptick in traffic could lead to increased crime or injuries occurring on their property.

For now, Pokémon is just the latest phenomenon, and we are sure to see more and more mobile platforms that will change the way brick-and-mortar retailers attract new consumers.

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